Office Number: 203-815-5782
MANAGEMENT & SENIOR ADVISORS
Bijan Almassian, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO
Valerian Nakaar, Ph.D.
Co-Founder and Vice President, Research & Development
Tom Gerson, M.B.A.
Chief Financial Officer
Joseph Rininger, Ph.D.
Vice President, Product Development and Project Management
Stephen Mason, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Virology & HBV Program Lead
Timur Yarovinsky, MD, Ph.D.
Director of Immunology
John Rose, Ph.D.,
Co-Founder and Chairman of Scientific Advisory Board
Michael Robek, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, Member of Scientific Advisory Board
Bijan Almassian, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO
Dr. Almassian is a Senior Pharmaceutical Executive with diverse experience in leading Biotechnology R&D Operations, Project and Alliance Management in startup and mid-size life science companies with an excellent track record of bringing new products through different phases of Research and Development. Dr. Almassian is currently the president and CEO of CaroGen Corporation, a leader in development of immunotherapy vaccines and also Founder and Chairman of Aria Neurosciences (www.Arianeurosciences.com), an Alzheimer drug development company.
Prior to CaroGen and Aria, he served as President and CEO of ExSAR Corp. from 2005 to 2010. Over his tenure at ExSAR, he built a pipeline of small drug molecules for potential treatment of genetic diseases and neurological disorders. Prior to joining ExSAR, Dr. Almassian was the Chief Operating Officer at Panacea Pharmaceuticals, Inc. focused on discovery and development of drugs for treatment of cancer and neurological disorders. Before joining Panacea, he held several senior executive positions at Vion Pharmaceuticals (VION), a spin off from Yale University. As Vice President of Drug Development, he built the drug development operations, which led to the IND filing and development of five drugs and biologics through all phases of development. Before Vion, he was held both scientific and management positions at Genelabs and Genzyme. Dr. Almassian holds a MS and PhD from Northeastern University and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, respectively and was a NIH postdoctoral fellow at Boston University Medical School.
Valerian Nakaar, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Vice President, Research & Development
Dr. Nakaar has twenty years of experience in research and development of human vaccines in academic, small biotech and pharmaceutical environments. At VaxInnate where he joined the company at its founding in 2002, Dr. Nakaar was heavily involved in the company’s start-up. Under his leadership, the molecular biology group delivered multiple vaccine candidates including novel influenza vaccines currently undergoing clinical evaluation. He also has had extensive involvement with other viral, bacterial and parasitic vaccines. At Vion, he developed protein and peptide-based cancer therapies. He has been an author of many peer-reviewed publications, and inventor on US patents related to development and production of vaccines for influenza and other infectious diseases. Dr. Nakaar has served for nine years as a faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Nakaar received his B.Sc. (Hons.) in Biological Sciences from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Molecular Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, and carried out his postdoctoral fellowship in the Section of Infectious Diseases, Yale University School of Medicine.
Tom Gerson, M.B.A., Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Gerson has over thirty years of corporate finance, business strategy, and operations experience both with large firms, such as Allied-Signal, Sterling Drug and Sanofi Pharmaceuticals earlier in his career. He subsequently served as CFO & VP of Business Operations at CGI Pharmaceuticals and HistoRx, two privately-held, venture capital-backed emerging life sciences companies spun out of Yale University and then as VP of Finance & Corporate Treasurer for IntelligentMDx. More recently, Mr. Gerson was the Program Manager for The University of Connecticut's Technology Park being built on the Storrs campus and currently serves as a Business Growth Advisor with SECT Tech - CTNext, part of Connecticut's effort to assist emerging life science / health care company formation, funding and growth throughout the state. He has an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago and a BA in History, Economics and Environmental Studies from Boston College.
Joseph Rininger, Ph.D., Vice President Product Development and Project Management
Dr. Rininger possesses over 18 years of experience in basic biomedical research and biopharmaceutical product development. Most recently, he was the program manager for the advanced development and commercialization of a recombinant hermagglutinin-based subunit vaccine for influenza (Flublok®) under a $147M government contract. This encompassed planning and leading a cross-functional team in the execution of tasks encompassing all areas of recombinant vaccine development (process development, formulation development and stability, pre-clinical toxicology quality control, process and facility validation, manufacturing process transfer, regulatory affairs and clinical development. Furthermore, he has experience and solid skills in international business development and business strategy from serving as Director, Business Development at Protein Sciences Corporation. In this role he and established and led the process development, manufacturing and regulatory (CMC) aspects for four recombinant programs to enter clinical trials.
Stephen Mason, Ph.D., Executive Director, Virology
Dr. Mason has been involved in drug discovery research for the past 18 years. Since 2015, he has been a consultant in various capacities for small biotechs and potential start-up companies. From 2010 to 2015, he was Director, Discovery Virology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, leading research efforts toward remission/eradication of HIV-1 and HBV. Much of the focus of this work was on immune-modulatory mechanisms including PD-1/PD-L1. Under his guidance, anti-PD-L1 antibodies were tested in advanced animal disease models for both HIV-1 and HBV as well as in human clinical trials for HIV-1. From 1998-2010, Dr. Mason was at Boehringer-Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., where he led several drug discovery teams to find new antiretrovirals against HIV-1 targets including capsid and gag, integrase, RT, entry, vif and others. He also initiated research efforts toward HIV-1 remission/eradication at BI prior to moving to BMS. Early in his tenure at BI, he was involved in the discovery of novel inhibitors against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) RNA-dependent RNA polymerase and HIV-1 integrase inhibitors..
Timur Yarovinsky, MD, Ph.D. Director, Immunology
Dr. Yarovinsky has more than 20 years of research experience studying immune responses to viral and bacterial infections. Prior to joining CaroGen in 2015, he conducted independent and collaborative studies as research faculty in the Department of Immunobiology and Yale Cardiovascular Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine investigating host responses to staphylococcal infections and post-transcriptional mechanisms regulating gene expression in immune cells. His interests in vaccine development stem from the research experience at the University of Iowa, where he studied how adenoviral vectors and respiratory syncytial virus sensitize the host to bacterial toxins. He received his postdoctoral training in molecular biology at the University of Iowa and earned his M.D./Ph.D. in allergy and immunology at Russian State Medical University. His research results are reported in more than 35 peer-reviewed publications.
SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD
Dr. Rose is Professor of Pathology, and Director, Program in Virology and Vaccine Development at Yale University School of Medicine. He was also Co-director, Yale Graduate Program in Microbiology, Director, Yale Medical School HIV research facility, and Director of Graduate Studies in Experimental Pathology. Prior to coming to Yale, he served as Associate Professor at the Salk Institute. Dr. Rose earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University under Dr. Charles Yanofsky and carried out his postdoctoral studies at M.I.T. under, Drs. Harvey Lodish and David Baltimore, three of the most distinguished scientists in the field of Biology. He is the author of close to two hundred scientific articles and has served as editor and member of the editorial board of several scientific journals.
Dr. Robek is an Associate Professor at Albany Medical College and former Associate Professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he was a member of the Molecular Virology Program of the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center, and a member of the Yale Liver Center. He has over twenty years of experience in virology and immunology research. After receiving his Ph.D. degree in Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis from Washington University in St. Louis, he carried out his postdoctoral research at The Scripps Research Institute, where he studied the immune response to hepatitis B virus (HBV). Dr. Robek has a broad background in virology, cytokines and vaccines. Over the past ten years, Dr. Robek’s research has been aimed at understanding how virus-host interactions might be therapeutically manipulated in new ways to control chronic virus infection, with an emphasis on HBV. The discoveries made by his lab have not only provided basic new insight into HBV replication and pathogenesis, but have also identified new potential targets for therapy. Dr. Robek is widely-recognized as an international authority on hepatitis viruses. He is author and co-author of over 30 scientific publications.
Steven J. Geary, Ph.D. Member of Scientific Advisory Board
Dr. Geary received his Ph.D. from The University of Connecticut in 1980 and was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. He is a Professor and the Department Head of Pathobiology & Veterinary Science. He was a 2008-2009 Jefferson Science Fellow, serving at the U. S. Department of State in the Arms Control Bureau, Office of Biological Weapons Affairs. Over the years he has received funding for his research from the NIH, USDA, NSF, DHS, BSF, DTRA, and corporate sponsors.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Bijan Almassian, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO
See Management Above
Valerian Nakaar, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Vice President, Research & Development
See Management Above
Susan Froshauer, Ph.D.
Dr. Froshauer is President and CEO of CURE. She is an experienced scientist, mentor, entrepreneur and investor with skill at connecting academic expertise and technology with the commercial sector. Prior to joining CURE, she was Director of the Technology Exchange Portal at the University of Connecticut’s Office of Economic Development. In this role Susan assisted Connecticut-based entrepreneurs and organizations with initiatives that train students, create jobs and contribute to economic development. Until 2010, Susan served as President and CEO of Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, which she co-founded in New Haven in 2000. Under her leadership, Rib-X raised more than $160 million in private equity, bridge financing and government grants and built a robust pipeline of antibiotics to treat serious hospital infections. Prior to Rib-X, Susan served as a member of Pfizer’s Strategic Alliance Group where she was key to the creation of a $200 million investment portfolio that transformed the Pfizer global research and development strategy, helping the company identify new resources for drug discovery. Susan received a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Harvard University and a B. A. from Connecticut College. She performed post-doctoral research at Yale Medical School in the Department of Cell Biology as a Jane Coffin Child’s Fellow.
Frank Marco advises emerging growth companies in capital formation, mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, joint ventures, strategic alliances, licensing, research and development, corporate governance and related matters. He regularly counsels institutional clients on corporate transactions such as mergers and acquisition, spin-offs and corporate ventures.
Frank has over 40 years of experience in corporate, finance and securities law. His experience includes six years in the General Counsel's office of General Electric Company, where he was also General Counsel to General Electric Venture Capital Corporation. Frank is now Special Counsel to Wiggin and Dana LLP, and a member of SECTTECH (a part of “CTNext”), which provides advisory services and mentorship for life science and other related technology companies in CT. In honoring Frank with its "Distinguished Service Award," Connecticut Innovations, Inc. described him as "a driving force in the growth of high technology in Connecticut." Frank is a director of several for-profit corporations, and has a long history in working with technology and venture capital oriented trade associations. Frank regularly addresses business groups regarding venture capital finance and other matters relating to the growth and development of emerging companies. Frank is a graduate of St. Lawrence University (1969), and was awarded his J.D. cum laude from Fordham Law School (1972), where he was an editor of the Fordham Law Review.
Jo Viney, Ph.D.
Dr. Viney is an entrepreneurial scientist and experienced biotech executive with extensive knowledge in autoimmune and inflammatory disease area. A self-described “drug-hunter”, she has successfully advanced a number of small molecule and biologics programs into the clinic. According to Jo, “I was impressed by cutting-edge science developed by world class scientists at Yale University, and by the extensive expertise of its management team.” Previously, Jo worked at Biogen in Cambridge, MA where she began as Vice President, Immunology Research and was responsible for building and advancing the company’s immunology portfolio before moving on to become Senior Vice President, Drug Discovery and a member of the senior R&D leadership team. Prior to Biogen, Jo worked at Genentech, Immunex and Amgen with increasing scope of drug discovery responsibilities. Jo received her PhD in Immunology from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, University of London in the U.K.
CaroGen Expands its Board of Directors and Development Leadership Team
Farmington, CT - April 17, 2017: CaroGen today announced an important addition to its Board of Directors (Dr. Jo Viney) and two key senior executive level scientists (Dr. Steven Mason and Dr. Timur Yarovinsky) to its immunotherapy discovery and development team. Click here to read the full press release
CaroGen and University of Connecticut Colon Cancer Immunotherapy Collaboration Highlighted in Colon Cancer News Today
Farmington, CT - January 26, 2017: CaroGen and researchers at the University of Connecticut have initiated a collaboration on development of a colon cancer immunotherapy. This collaboration was highlighted in Colon Cancer News Today. Click here to read the full article.
UCONN Health Researchers Collaborate with CaroGen Corporation to Develop Vaccine to Treat Colon Cancer
Farmington, CT - November 8, 2016: The University of Connecticut and CaroGen Corporation, an emerging immunotherapy company, today announced a collaboration aimed at developing a therapeutic vaccine for treatment of patients with colon cancer. CaroGen’s proprietary technology platform will be applied to a specific target studied by UConn Health’s Dr. Kepeng Wang Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Immunology. Click here to read the full press release
CaroGen Forms Zika Vaccine Consortium
Farmington, CT - November 7, 2016: CaroGen Corporation, announced today that it has formed a consortium comprising CaroGen, the University of Connecticut and Yale University School of Medicine scientists to accelerate the development of a Zika virus vaccine. Click here to read the full press release.
CaroGen Raiess $1M in Series A Funds
Farmington, CT - October 19, 2016: CaroGen Corporation announced today that it has raised $1 million dollars through GP Fortune Investment Partners (GPFI), LLC, to advance the company's Heptatis B Virus (HBV) immunotherapy. Click here to read the full press release.
CaroGen in the News:
August 8, 2016: CaroGen’s CEO Bijan Almassian was profiled by the Hartford Business Journal where he discusses CaroGen's technology, products to treat or prevent Hepatitis B, Zika and C. difficile infections and financing. Click here to read the full interview.
July 5, 2016: Connecticut Senators Murphy and Blumenthal pushing for Zika virus response funding. Click here for the story.
SPARK Commercialization Grant Award for C. difficile Vaccine
Farmington, CT - April 18, 2016: CaroGen announced today that University of Connecticut collaborator, Dr. Kamal Khanna, was awarded a SPARK Commercialization Fund grant from the University of Connecticut. The grant is to support the research and development of a VLV-based vaccine against C. difficile infection. The award will support the creation of candidate VLV vaccines and testing their immunogenicity in preclinical models. Click here to read the award notification from SPARK.
CT Backs CaroGen’s Quest to Fight Cancer, Hepatitis B
March 7, 2016: An interview with CaroGen’s President and CEO was published in the Hartford Business Journal where he provides an update on CaroGen’s product development: Click here to read the full interview.
CaroGen Announces Publication of HBV Vaccine Preclinical Research
Hamden CT - August 17, 2015 - CaroGen Corporation, an emerging vaccine company, today announced the electronic publication of a research article entitled “Virus-Like Vesicle-Based Therapeutic Vaccine Vectors for Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection,” which appeared in the August online issue of the Journal of Virology.
CaroGen Fostering Vaccine Development Collaborations with Yale & UConn and Establishing Laboratory
Farmington CT – January 5, 2015 – CaroGen Corporation today announced that it has chosen UConn’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP) in Farmington to establish a laboratory footprint. This expansion will allow CaroGen to more aggressively pursue the advancement of its proprietary virus-like vesicle (VLV) vaccine technology, development of its HBV vaccine program and evaluation of other potential candidate infectious disease vaccines.
CaroGen Receives $500,000 Investment from Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund (CBIF)
Hamden CT – December 10, 2014 – CaroGen has been awarded $500,000 from the CBIF to support the continued development of CaroGen's therapeutic Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) vaccine.
CaroGen Wins Entrepreneur Innovation Award from CTNext
Hamden CT – April 3, 2014 – CaroGen was awarded a $10,000 grant by CTNext, a component of Connecticut’s innovation ecosystem to support the success of companies and entrepreneurs, to further support development of its therapeutic vaccine for chronic Hepatitis B (CHB) viral infection.